NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that there was “no indication” that athat killed two people on Tuesday, was the result of a deliberate attack by Russia, “and we have no indication that Russia is planning offensive military actions against NATO allies.”
“I think this demonstrates the dangers related to the ongoing war in Ukraine, but it has not changed our fundamental assessment of the threat against NATO allies,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday after a meeting of ambassadors of NATO
He said preliminary findings indicated the missile was likely Ukrainian air defense, but that “Russia is responsible for what happened in Poland yesterday” because it was a “direct result” of the ongoing activity ..
Poland is a member of NATO, so if the missile attack had been a hostile attack by Russia, it could have triggered a response from allies under the collective defense treaty that underpins the transatlantic military alliance, including the united states
The origin of the missile that struck Polish territory Tuesday evening has not been confirmed, but as of Wednesday, both U.S. and Polish leaders had indicated it was unlikely to have been fired by Russia.
President Biden joined other Western leaders in calling for a full investigation into the attack, but said he thought it was unlikely the missile was fired from Russia, based on preliminary evidence about its trajectory, and which could have been the result of a Ukrainian. interception or attempted interception of a Russian attack.
“We’ll see,” Mr. Biden said on Tuesday. “I’ll make sure we find out exactly what happened.”
When he returned to the White House early Thursday, reporters asked the president about claims by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the missile was not Ukrainian. Mr. Biden responded: “That’s not the evidence.”
The President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, echoed Mr. Biden on Wednesday morning, saying it was likely a Ukrainian missile that fell just inside Polish territory near the border with Ukraine by accident. He said it did not appear to have been a “deliberate attack” by Russia.
The Polish president repeated the statements of the previous day, saying that he and his allies are “acting calmly” because “it is a difficult situation”.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed, telling reporters at a briefing on Wednesday: “We have seen nothing to contradict President Duda’s preliminary assessment that this explosion was likely the result of ‘a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland’. Like other Western leaders, Austin also said that “Russia bears the ultimate responsibility for this incident.”
The secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine called on social media for a “joint study” of the incident. He said Ukraine hoped to be able to review the evidence for any conclusion that the missile that landed in Poland was Ukrainian air defense and called for Ukrainian officials to have access to the site.
Zelenskyy said later Wednesday that he believed reports he had received from the Ukrainian air force that the missile was not Ukrainian. He also asked that Ukraine can visit the site in Poland.
“I have no doubt in the air force report that it was not our rocket, nor our missile attack. I have no reason not to trust it. I spent the war with them,” Zelenskyy said in a Press conference. “Do we have a right to be on the investigative team? Of course.”
Polish investigators were hard at work at the missile crater earlier on Wednesday and had set up a police cordon a few meters away, BBC News’ Dan Johnson reported from the scene. Residents of the area, which is only about 10 miles from the border with Ukraine, have been nervous that the war could spill over into their community since Russian leader Vladimir Putin launched his invasion on 24 February, Johnson noted.
Russia fired more than 90 missiles and drones at towns and cities in Ukraine on Tuesday, plunging 10 million homes into darkness, the Ukrainian government said. It was the largest missile barrage Russia has launched during the war.
“This is a Russian missile attack on collective security,” Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said. “This is a very important escalation. We must act.”
The Kremlin denied responsibility for the missile landing in Poland and called the response of European leaders “hysterical”, although it noted the US’s “moderate and much more professional” reaction.
While calling for a full investigation, Western leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Sholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said Russia was ultimately responsible for the missile landing in Poland.
“This would not have happened without the Russian war against Ukraine, without the missiles that are now being fired at Ukrainian infrastructure on a massive scale,” Scholz said.
“This is the cruel and unrelenting reality of Putin’s war,” Sunak said.
CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay contributed to this report.